By Don Reisinger
November 8, 2017

Home security cameras are a growing battleground in the technology industry. Can Amazon and its new Cloud Cam indoor security camera compete?

That was the question I asked last week when I opened my Cloud Cam, which begins shipping today. Like the Nest Cam Indoor from Alphabet, Cloud Cam features high-quality video, all-day monitoring, and the ability to save video during periods that the camera detects motion in the room. But Amazon’s camera adds some extras, like compatibility with Amazon’s Alexa virtual personal assistant, that may make it appealing. And at $120, it’s substantially cheaper than the $200 Nest Cam.

So, is Cloud Cam worth it? Read on to find out:

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Design

Cloud Cam has a white plastic finish with a black face that houses the 1080p full-HD camera. A white stand sits below the camera. If you’d like, you can attach the camera to a wall.

I’m not very fond of glossy white finishes, but the Cloud Cam isn’t necessarily an ugly device. In most cases, you can place it in a corner, and the design shouldn’t detract from your decor.

Set-Up and Video Quality

Cloud Cam is a cinch to set up. I plugged it in, downloaded the free Cloud Cam app to my iPhone, and had it recording in minutes.

Once set up, there wasn’t much to do with Cloud Cam other than watch what was happening from the app. You can use the app to watch a live video stream, as well as go back and see recorded “events,” like when the camera detects motion. Whether I was watching livestreaming video or recorded content, the video’s full-HD resolution made for crystal-clear pictures. Even when I used the pinch-to-zoom gesture in the app to zoom in on a section of the video, the resolution held up. Having the ability to zoom—in full HD—to see part of a video is extremely appealing. It allows you to see minute details, a person’s face, or anything else that might prove useful when analyzing security video.

I was also impressed by Cloud Cam’s night vision, which wasn’t as good as in bright light, of course. But it was quite good for low-light and able to help you make out faces and other details.

Key Features

Amazon’s Cloud Cam is a tethered device, which means you have to plug it in and can’t power it by battery. Having battery power would have made given me more flexibility in where to place it around the house—although the long power cord that it comes with was welcome.

The Cloud Cam comes with two-way audio so that people being filmed, like a family member who just got home, or worse, a thief, can speak to you through your Cloud Cam app. Generally, I found the camera’s speaker quality to be so-so. The microphone worked well, but again, the audio sounded a little tinny.

One of the nice things about Cloud Cam is that it detects motion and differentiates between the source. When a human walked by, it recognized the person and sent me a notification saying a person was detected. The service can’t say specifically who the person is, though. When my dogs walked by, the camera was intelligent enough to know it wasn’t a human and didn’t notify me that a person had walked by.

The Cloud Cam app can send you notifications whenever it detects some movement. That can be annoying in high-traffic areas. Luckily, it has a setting that lets you decide how often you want to be alerted to movement or people entering a room.

Cloud Cam works with Alexa-enabled devices. That means you can ask Alexa to show a live view of the camera’s video feed on an Echo Show or Fire TV. You can’t speak to Cloud Cam to set appointments or play music.

All About the App

The free Cloud Cam app is well-built, easy to use, and provides a variety of customization options. I especially liked having access to a Zones feature to tell the camera to ignore movement in certain parts of its field of view. I set a few zones during my testing and it ignored them, even when some movement was detected there.

The app has a number of other features, including the ability to automatically turn off the camera when you’re home without any user interaction and set the sensitivity of the camera’s motion detector. Each of those features worked extremely well.

Final Thoughts

If you’re in the market for a full-featured security camera, Cloud Cam is a great option. For the price, its video quality is outstanding and all of its features work as promised.

However, there are some others costs to owning Cloud Cam. If you want long-term access to detecting people (rather than regular monitoring) or setting zones, and want to have unlimited video downloads, you’ll need to sign up for an Amazon service plan that starts at $7 monthly or $70 annually. The service plans are optional.

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